INDOT officials are seeking what is known as a writ of assistance to help keep Tom and Sandra Tokarski off land they previously owned through which contractors are building I-69. The couple is allowed on adjacent land, but not on the road’s right-of-way or on an easement next to the road’s path.
They allege they’re not only allowed to be on the land, but they need to be there to keep contractors from fouling the environment. In court Tuesday, lawyers for the state sought to show the area is dangerous because of the heavy machinery operating there and the changing topography of the area – both of which can cause liability issues for the state and imminent danger to any visitors.
But the Tokarskis’ lawyer Rudolph Savich says he thinks that argument is a smoke screen generated after the couple filed a complaint with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management about polluted runoff at the site.
“It never became an issue until they got a complaint from IDEM about the lack of erosion control. It seems to me fairly obvious that the true reason for this write of assistance to keep the Tokarskis off their property was to keep them from being able to document these environmental violations and not the Tokarskis’ or anybody else’s safety.”
While on the stand, Tom Tokarski was asked about a state statute which says it’s illegal to interfere with state work. “If telling the truth is interfering with their work,” he responded, “Then I guess we’re guilty.”
Savich says he believes the case will be appealed no matter how judge Francie Hill rules. That ruling could come in the next couple weeks. A trial has tentatively been scheduled for April of next year after attorneys for both sides agreed mediation was unlikely to succeed. Lawyers for the state repeatedly declined comment Tuesday.